Economic and social sustainability performance of jatropha projects: results from field surveys in Mozambique, Tanzania and Mali

H.A. Romijn, S. Heijnen, J. Rom Colthoff, B. Jong, de, J.A.J. Eijck, van

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This paper presents results from comprehensive field surveys of jatropha projects in Mozambique, Tanzania and Mali in 2012. The article singles out the salient economic and social impact results and derives lessons. The results clearly demonstrate the weak business case for jatropha biofuel production at this time. Plantations were found to be unviable because of insurmountable up-front capital requirements in combination with slow and unreliable crop maturation, inefficient oil pressing owing to a lack of scale and experience, inadequate utilization of by-products, and competitively-priced fossil diesel and palm oil. For smallholders, jatropha only has limited value as a hedge crop in environmentally and economically disadvantaged areas. Better prospects have to wait for the advent of improved jatropha varieties. Social impacts from the perspective of project managers were rather mixed: overall, food security perceptions were positive and no massive forced human displacements were noted so far, though some disputes over land access and compensation were reported. Labor legislation was apparently respected on plantations, and positive gender effects, regional income/employment effects and better public facilities were also reported. The projects generated considerable employment, albeit mostly of a temporary nature, as lack of economic viability had caused many projects to close down again. When introducing next-generation biofuel projects, better monitoring by various actor groups is recommended, as well as long-term investment plans that include integral exit strategies. Keywords: jatropha; biofuel; bioenergy; social development; economic development
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6203-6235
Number of pages33
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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